The 10th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Brno Circuit in the Czech Republic, and after a mid-season break that seems to have gone on forever, it is time to get back to racing to start the second half of the season to continue an amazing championship battle.
And what a battle we have! The top five riders in the world championship are separated by 26 points heading into the final nine races of 2017, and have all won at least one race during the opening nine rounds of the season.
Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 129 points on his factory Honda, which is the lowest points score by a rider leading the world championship after the opening nine rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993, five points ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales, who is on 124 points.
However, Viñales has won more races so far in 2017 than his fellow Spaniard with three victories (Qatar, Argentina, and France), compared to Márquez, who has achieved two victories (Americas, and Germany).
Behind the two pre-season favourites after the halfway mark of the season is factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso on 123 points, six points behind Márquez in the world championship after winning two races (Italy, and Catalunya), and becoming the first Ducati rider since Casey Stoner back in 2010 to win consecutive races for the manufacturer.
Valentino Rossi is fourth in the championship on his factory Yamaha on 119 points, 10 points behind Márquez after achieving one victory during the opening half of the season, at the eighth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship at Assen.
Behind Rossi is Dani Pedrosa, who is fifth in the world championship on 103 points, 26 points behind his factory Honda teammate Márquez after winning the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this year at Jerez, and is still well and truly in championship contention.
However, behind the battle for the championship is a great scrap for sixth in the championship standings between Johann Zarco (84 points), Jonas Folger (71 points), Danilo Petrucci (66 points), Jorge Lorenzo (65 points), and Cal Crutchlow (64 points).
All five of these riders have been on the podium at least once this season, and in the case of Petrucci, twice. As well as this, the three riders of those five (Zarco, Folger, and Petrucci) who haven’t won a race in the premier class in their careers to date have shown that they can challenge the very best on their day, and could possibly claim their first MotoGP race victories during the second-half of the season.
The two out of those five (Lorenzo and Crutchlow) who have won races in the premier class, and in the case of Lorenzo, world championships, have struggled to put together a string of good results so far in 2017, and need to find some consistency in the second-half to have any hope of achieving a top five finish in the championship.
So, MotoGP heads to the Czech Republic with at least ten riders who have shown that they are capable of winning a race in 2017, and with the conditions set to be fine, but hotter than normal, it leaves this race wide open.
However, especially given Honda have won five of the last six races at the Brno Circuit, if the track conditions are slippery, it will suit the Japanese manufacturer extremely well.
However, if the track has a lot of grip in its asphalt, it will bring it more in the favour of Yamaha, and in particular Ducati.
So, who am I tipping to win the Czech Republic Grand Prix?
Well, no rider has won at the Brno Circuit in consecutive years in MotoGP since Valentino Rossi won the races in 2008 and 2009, and suspect this record will still be standing at the end of the weekend.
So, I am going to tip Marc Márquez to win the tenth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship in a fantastic battle with Dani Pedrosa.
MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).